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Abstract

The purpose of this study is to answer the question: how have tribes enacted their own sovereignty through new organizational designs without reproducing the authority of the federal government? The study examines how an institutional logic, tribal sovereignty, becomes anchored into an organizational design and how that design has constrained the goals of tribal sovereignty. The call for tribal sovereignty by tribal leaders at the federal and state levels has forced tribes to reexamine their existing organizations and the goals of those structures that encompass the models of authority and practice that are typically the jurisdictions of local school boards. Local school boards have deep roots in building up systems of control over local tribal education that have taken the responsibility of interpreting federal laws, policies, and resources towards educational priorities, which occasionally includes the recovery of tribal assets such as language revitalization, cultural integration into math and science standards, and a revision to tribal character values to build the nation up. Tribes have experienced the high cost of educational investments with very minimal returns from the local school educational experiments. Therefore, many tribal leaders have established tribal organizations that reflect a form of tribal sovereignty that embodies their vision of an autonomous and successful tribal nation.

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